Friday, October 20, 2017

We have a brand-new sewer pipe! No longer will I cringe every time I flush a toilet. And now I can plant tulip bulbs in the front yard.

That won't be happening today, however. This afternoon I'll hit the road again, heading out for band gigs tonight (in Dover-Foxcroft) and tomorrow night (in Hope). Poor Tom will be left alone with a needy house and a ravening cat as I compete in The Battle of the Bands and then play for a dance party.

[What does one wear to a Battle of the Bands? I'm sure whatever it is, I don't own it.]

* * *

I do want to mention that my friend and I are still working on our co-written poem draft. I am so surprised and amazed at its quality. It think we are on to something, and I am finding the project such a comfort amid the crush of painting and caulking.

* * *

If you want to feel better about the state of the nation, don't read the current New Yorker article about Mike Pence.

* * *

In one week, my younger son is going be 20 years old. He is also more than 6 feet tall and has a giant beard. How did this happen?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Reading the headlines is making me glum. Once again, our jerk-in-chief is displaying his heartlessness, his personal cowardice, his narcissism. How can anyone be so awful? He is truly a despicable American.

As I forge on with my own little life--as I do my jobs, try to write, tend my home--I am also perpetually aware that, in the eyes of this monster, I am worthless. The only thing I have going for me is that I'm white. Otherwise: I earn very little money. I am not beautiful. I do not toady to him. So why should he care if I have health care or clean water or breathable air?

It is terrible to watch such cruelty on public display. It is terrible to recognize that everything I value about humanity is exactly what he derides and ignores. Complexity, variation, ambiguity, creativity, patience, altruism, conversation, thought, honesty, faith. These count for exactly nothing.

I know that none of this is news to you. I know you feel the same way that I do. So at least we have each other. You, over there: you interesting, curious, kind, intelligent person. You, with your moral convictions and your open heart. You, a being who admits you've made a mistake, and apologizes, and tries to do better. You, who listens. Thank you for holding fast.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

It looks like, finally, we're about to make some big advances on our house rehab project. Today and tomorrow, the plumber and the excavator will be replacing the sewer line. The electrician promises to come soon, as does the chimney-repair man. So maybe by next week we'll have the power laid out in the kitchen, the chimney crack sealed, a new chimney cleanout door attached, and a woodstove installed. We're going to buy a gently used Jotul F 100, which is little and cute and has a big window for watching the flames, and will fit easily into our teeny-tiny fireplace opening. It is pleasant to imagine Alcott House with a brisk little fire on the hearth.

Today: editing, of course. And maybe running back and forth to deal with the plumber. And definitely painting . . . mostly touch-up work on the finished rooms. I bought some tulip bulbs, and as soon as the sewer work is done, I will feel safe about planting them in the front foundation beds.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Me Too

It is startling--no, shocking; no, horrifying--to read in plain English what women have always privately known: that nearly every one of us has been subjected to sexual harassment, and that most of us have seen it as so normal that we haven't said a word to anyone about it . . . often not even to ourselves. This is sickening. It has likewise been a shock to read the reactions of good and earnest men who have never truly comprehended the breadth and depth of the issue; who have not understood that nearly every woman they know has been fending off or giving in since she was a little girl.

I have been touched, leered at, propositioned, and joked about. I have been threatened and grabbed and thrown into doors. I have found myself in frightening and bizarre situations with both strangers and loved ones. I learned early, very early, to be wary, to compartmentalize, to keep quiet.

I have listened to other men ridicule my husband for not keeping me in line . . . by which I mean, when we went to buy invitations for our wedding, and I said that I'd be keeping my own name, the clerk stared at Tom and said, "You're going to let her do that?" I ventured to comment, at a car dealership, about a truck that Tom was considering, and the salesman sneered, "I guess we can tell who wears the pants in the family." In other words: what kind of man allows a woman to have any power--even the power to ask a question or choose her name?

The thing is: my experiences are not unique. They are normal. In some ways I am lucky. I've never had to sit on anyone's lap to get a promotion. I've never been raped at a party and dumped behind a trash can. But you'll notice that I'm still not giving you many details about what did happen. And that's because harassment is so intimately woven into the complications of my history that saying anything is liable to create an enormous tear. What's the point of that? That's a question that all women ask themselves, all the time. And so most of us stay quiet.

There's shame in admitting that one has been a victim. There's the simple hideous distress of having to relive these moments of the past. But at the same time I've had a perpetual need to concentrate on the ways in which I have not been beaten down. I read. I write. I try to see the ambiguities. That preoccupation has led me away from an urge to blame. This may not be a good thing in the sense of revealing the depth of the problem. But it has been a way to take charge.

Monday, October 16, 2017

No longer do I only paint. Now I also rip out phone wiring, yank out nails, tear down ceilings, spackle holes, caulk cracks, and brandish a power drill.

And then I come back to the doll-house and do laundry, clean the bathroom, make dinner, and wake up at 3 a.m. after dreaming that a camel was blocking the restaurant door I was trying to open.

The upshot is: I'm tired. And today I have a desk full of editing, followed by more painting and caulking. This all seems likely to go on forever, certainly well beyond the day we move in. I think we will be lucky to have running water in that kitchen by November, let alone any usable surfaces.

Ah, well. I am comforted by the beauty of the freshly painted green front door. The paint chip calls it Gleeful. That is probably going too far, but it is certainly a great improvement over Shiny Electric Blue with Matching Plastic Shutters.

I am also comforted by the bounty of my new garden. Those peaked little greens I transplanted from my deck containers adore their sunny new home. I have an overflow of kale, chard, and arugula, and the perennial herbs are thriving.

Of course I'm also melancholy about Richard Wilbur this morning. The sage is growing, but the old guard is fading away.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

I slept till 7 this morning, which is blissfully late for me, and now I am quietly sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and thinking about John Brown. There is so much moral ambiguity in his story . . . not just within the man himself but also within his detractors and supporters--for instance, the Concord cadre, as Thomas Wentworth Higginson (himself a fervent abolitionist) recalled:
Higginson saw that, despite their different temperaments, [Thoreau and Bronson Alcott] took self-reliant action when it came to protesting against slavery. For them as for others, Transcendentalism bred not complacency but courage. Higginson enjoyed describing Alcott's intrepedity during the Anthony Burns affair [involving a fugitive slave being recaptured in a free state] and again after the Harpers Ferry raid, when Alcott offered to help go rescue John Brown from the Charles Town jail. Thoreau, too, combined quietism and pluck. As Higginson noted, "In a similar way Thoreau, after all his seeming theories of self-absorption, ranged himself on the side of John Brown as placidly as if he were going for huckleberries.". . . 
. . . Transcendentalism went hand in hand with a militant reform stance. Like Higginson, [Reverend Theodore] Parker was deeply involved in several movements, including women's rights, temperance, and prison reform. His Abolitionism started mildly, as indicated by his rational "Letter to a Slave-Holder" (1848), but flamed into rage with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Even as he kept up his pursuits as a multilingual scholar and minister, he took part in attempted rescues of fugitive blacks and endorsed slave rebellions. Praising John Brown's effort to spark an insurrection by blacks at Harpers Ferry, he wrote, capitalizing his words for emphasis: "ONE HELD AGAINST HIS WILL AS A SLAVE HAS A NATURAL RIGHT TO KILL EVERY ONE WHO SEEKS TO PREVENT HIS ENJOYMENT OF LIBERTY." 
[from David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist]
Higginson is most famous today as Emily Dickinson's mentor and editor, but he also "command[ed] the first African American regiment during the Civil War," and, as I discovered when I was compiling my anthology A Poet's Sourcebook, he was one of the first people to write down the lyrics of the spirituals he heard his soldiers singing. The ways in which these nineteenth-century figures intertwine are fascinating--almost as if the century were a small town. But I digress, for my central concern this morning circles around these quotations from Reynolds's biography, which are morally startling yet also inarguable. As someone who was raised in the Society of Friends, I tend to instantly fall toward pacificism. Still, as the institution of slavery has shown, peace-mongering may also be an easy way to avoid taking a stand against evil. It seems that pacificism, too, can be cowardice and selfishness--the opposite of righteousness.

Friday, October 13, 2017

This has been a ridiculously social week for me. On Tuesday I went for a long walk with a dear young person. On Wednesday I went north for band practice, then spent the night with the young person's parents, also dear. On Thursday I went north for a poetry/fiction reading and then had an impromptu dinner at the home of complete (but lovely) strangers. Tonight I'll perform at a Portland bar in front of a crowd of people I may or may not know.

Yesterday afternoon my college son called and asked, "How does it feel to have a social life?" I told him it felt peculiar. He agreed. He finds it peculiar as well, all this hanging out and talking to people.

I do have a few hours alone today to recover. But on the whole, I know it's good for me to climb out of my hole and mingle with my species. Sometimes, in these gatherings, I find myself sinking back into a teenage world of worry--you know, about stupid things like "I wish my hair didn't stick out so weirdly." But mostly I'm learning to forget them. Who cares if my hair sticks out weirdly? Who cares if my pants make me look fat? I'm 53 years old. What do I have to prove?

I've also had another interesting social interaction this week. One of my Frost Place friends, a young man who's just snagged his first university job, proposed an experiment: that we write a poem draft together, responding to one another's lines. He began by sending me five or so lines, I added five more, he added five more, and so on. We don't have the same writing or imaginative style, but we seem to be working well together--feeling each other out, riffing on each other's narrative moves. The project is becoming a fascination, and it also feels like a creative work-around for two people who have been so busy with other life requirements that we haven't been able to be poets. I don't know where this piece will go, but it's the most exciting poetic thing I've been able to manage this fall.

See you tonight, maybe?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Yesterday I went on a 4-mile sunset walk with a young woman whom I have loved since she was a baby. It was a very sweet evening--watching for egrets, exclaiming at the colors reflecting in the cove, chattering in the way people do when they have known each other forever . . . which, as far as she is concerned, is the kind of person I am in her life. And for me, just getting a dose of beloved young person, with mine so far away, was revivifying. I came home and made dinner for Tom and told him all about my walk, and we were both so happy to talk about our friend and her plans. I love that these life links give him joy too.

Tonight I head north for band practice. And by the way, southern Maine friends, we are performing in Portland on Friday night, at the Thirsty Pig on Exchange Street, from 6 to 8. It would be so lovely to see you there.

In the meantime, I will do some editing and then work on a poem and then run over to the house and slap another coat of paint onto the stairwell. It's amazing how much better a wall looks when it isn't covered in a single coat of dirty, streaky mustard-color swiped over an equally dirty, streaky coat of Pepto-Bismol pink. Blah.

I will leave you with a fine quotation from the Cleveland Indians radio play-by-play guy:
"He's gonna open this thing wide open."
Ain't it the truth?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The doll-house is filled with wet light. Fingers of sun glint off wet leaves and roads, the park grass is speckled with seagulls, an old man is searching a trashcan for returnables, and some one has propped up the abandoned red bike.

Tom and I spent the entire long weekend working on the house (with a brief late afternoon hiatus for my birthday), and now Tom has to go do the same thing on other people's houses. It is an unfortunate state of affairs, and I wish I had more actual skills so I could take the burden off him. As it is, all I can do is be the queen of paint. I have now finished all three upstairs rooms--ceiling, walls, and trim--and have moved on to the ceiling in the landing and the stairwell. Today I'll do a second ceiling coat there and maybe a first coat of wall paint . . .

. . . I know this is dull talk, but painting is the only news I possess.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

I had a lovely day yesterday. We took a half-day off from home renovation and went for a long walk around our new neighborhoods . . . first down to Baxter Boulevard, along Back Cove, and then up through Payson Park and a zig-zag through the small streets along Ocean Avenue. We saw plenty of egrets, which made me happy.

We went back to the apartment for a nap, and in the evening, as the island fog rolled in, we ambled out for oysters at a new place on Washington Avenue. And then we walked another block for dinner and really good wine at the Drifter's Wife.

It was a sweet day, with many messages of affection from friends and family. I feel so fortunate to have you all.

Today we jump back onto the house-repair train. Tom's plan is to rip out and reframe the kitchen doorway and then install the new door. My plan is to paint pale-gray trim in the upstairs studies and eventually take a break to weed my garden.

In my reading life: John Brown is just about to commit atrocities among the proslavery yahoos at Pottawattomie, Kansas. In my radio-listening life: the Red Sox are just about to lose their elimination game to the Astros.

Outside the window a dump truck is loitering; kids are shouting about something or other. And now suddenly everything is silent, except for the sound of a small plane buzzing behind the clouds. Fog is hanging a thin veil over the bay, and the cat is sitting in the window, purring to himself.

I am writing these few words, and now I am remembering that I am a writer.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Today is my 53rd birthday, and I am sitting at my kitchen table in my red bathrobe, drinking coffee, writing to you, with a fat book at my elbow. Some things never change, even when everything does.

It's been a strange year. On my last birthday I was living by myself in Harmony. The house sale had evaporated. My dog had died. Everything was tragic.

Now here I am in Portland, preparing to spend my birthday painting the upstairs trim of the house we're madly trying to renovate before our apartment lease runs out. We're tired, and neither one of us has a speck of time for creative thought. But we're also having a comic romance together, one based around paint colors and new windows and the excitement of a thriving crop of greens in our slapdash new garden. As my friend Shonna said to me the other day, middle age is so funny. Whoever expected it would be like this?

I was so terribly lonely in Harmony on last year's birthday. This year I am not . . . though I am often still lonely for Harmony. That grief will never disappear. I lost my land, and I won't recover from it. But yesterday, as I crouched in the driveway hosing paint out of a brush, I was feeling peaceable enough about where I'd landed. And this morning, as I drink coffee and write to you, I'm still feeling okay. Last year at this time--even six months ago, even three months ago--I wasn't sure I ever would feel that way again.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Sorry today's post is so late: I had to rush out of the apartment first thing to meet the door-and-window delivery guy, who of course arrived an hour later than he said he would. Now, for a few minutes, I am catching up with emails and you, and then I will rush back to the house to show the woodstove to some friends who might want it for their camp. And then I will rush back here to deal with laundry. And then I will rush back to the house and spend the rest of the day painting.

This morning, though, Tom said, "You might want to open my birthday present today instead of tomorrow." His present turned out to be a sweet little wood-encased radio so that I can listen to baseball playoffs while painting. It's a good thing I've already resigned myself to being a Cleveland fan because the Red Sox ain't going nowhere in this series. But at least I can hear them choke in excellent audio.

I'm still working my way steadily into Reynolds's John Brown, Abolitionist. Here are a few passages you might want to mull over . . . perhaps as you consider your own interior thoughts about progressives and deplorables and violence and righteousness and evil.

John Brown treated these . . . black families in the area on terms of complete equality. He worked with them, surveyed their lands, and socialized with them, often visiting their homes and taking them into his. Lyman Epps, Jr., would never forget the kindness Brown showed toward his family. Epps recalled Brown as "a true friend of my father's," adding, "He'd walk up to our house on the Table Lands and come in and play with us children and talk to father. Many's the time I've sat on John Brown's knee. He was a kind and friendly man with children." 
* * * 
It mattered little to [proslavery] Senator Atchison and his ilk that interstate voting was illegal. As one of his Missouri confederates, General B. F. Stringfellow, said in a speech, "To those who have qualms of conscience as to violating laws, state or national, I say the time has come when such impositions must be disregarded, since your rights and property are in danger. And I advise you, one and all, to enter every election district in Kansas . . . and vote at the point of the bowie-knife and revolver." . . . 
By all accounts, the [Missourians] were a scurvy bunch, well deserving of their moniker: border ruffians. One Free State man described them as the most "rough, coarse, sneering, swaggering, dare-devil looking rascals as ever swung upon the gallows," another as "groups of drunken, bellowing, blood-thirsty demons." The New-York Tribune portrayed the typical border ruffian as tall, slim, hairy-faced, wearing a dirty flannel shirt and dark pants held up by a leather belt from which protruded a bowie knife. 
* * * 
But John Brown would soon be making use of his weapons [in Kansas]--most memorably those menacing two-bladed broadswords he had brought from Ohio.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

This afternoon I will drive north to band practice, and perhaps along the way I'll see the leaves starting to redden. Here in Portland, all I notice is a vague yellow shriveling more like August drought than October color.

The humidity has ticked up, and a warm breeze is blowing into the doll-house from the bay. I spent yesterday in a meeting about an upcoming teaching residency, then editing some manuscripts, painting closets, and trying, without success, to stay awake to listen to the Yankees-Twins game. I also found out that, no surprise, I did not win the Autumn House Prize. On the other hand, I was invited to judge the state Poetry Out Loud competition next spring. And my parents sent me two boxes crammed with wrapped birthday presents, so now the doll-house looks like Christmas.

Today I'll edit, and vacuum up cat hair, and listen to a bunch of songs we might be working on at band practice. I'll try not to fret about my manuscripts.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I'm heading off shortly for a meeting at a school where I'll be working later this winter. In the meantime, I'll leave you with these couple of John Doe poems, just out at Scoundrel Time. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Well, I'm starting the week off feeling as if I need a weekend, but c'est la vie in the home-recovery business. I've now got second coats of paint on all three upstairs rooms, a closet completely done, and an alcove first-coated. This evening I'll prime two more closets and the hall ceiling and put a second coat on the alcove, which, being yellow, may need a third.

This is dull conversation, I know, but I'm trying to put off wailing about murder. Trapped in paint as I was, I managed not to hear anything about the terror attacks in Edmonton and Las Vegas until this morning. And now that I know, I am gnashing my teeth and pacing around and asking, What the hell?, just like you are, I suppose.

And yet I am also reading the biography of a terrorist.

Here, beside the doll-house, drivers sweep around the corner on their way to work. That abandoned red bike is still locked to a post beside the park. Chilly walkers rush down the sidewalk.

In five days I will turn 53. I wonder what world I was imagining 50 years ago.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

"On winter evenings the family often sat in the living room by the huge fireplace, ten feet wide with oversized andirons and a crane with hooks that held kettles. John Brown would gather two or three children on his lap and sing hymns or discuss national affairs." --from David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist

* * *

The image of John Brown cuddling "two or three children on his lap" is very startling, but also very moving. I had not imagined him to be such a loving father, and yet he had 20 children (not all survived childhood), and he was intimately involved in their upbringing.

The other night, as Tom was washing dishes, he began talking, with sudden joy, about our sons--the great pleasure he has in knowing what decent human beings they have become, his equally great pleasure in their entertaining company. Tom is not an emoter, so his burst was notable. I of course beamed and agreed with everything, and so now I am thinking of John Brown and those "two or three" in his lap with great tenderness for both the children and their parents. I did not sing hymns to my boys, but I did sing.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Rain is tapping at the windows, and cold is seeping through the crevices. Last Saturday I played a gig in 90-degree heat. This morning I turned on the heat in our apartment. My justification is that I'd better enjoy "free" heat while I can because the oil bill at our new house is not going to be pretty. Also, I'm freezing.

But my bathrobe is thick, and the coffee is cooking, and my little garden needs the rain.

Yesterday before dinner I finished painting the bedroom walls, washed the spackled walls in both studies, and slapped primer over some weird stains. Meanwhile, Tom tore off the back stoop, which was a hideous conglomeration of rot. Today he's going to frame out space for the new kitchen door and window, and I will paint and paint and paint. The bedroom walls came out beautifully, so I am feeling enthusiastic, despite the sloppy boredom of the job. The brand of paint Tom chose turns out to have a thick velvety sheen that is very satisfying to stare at. Texture-wise, it sort of feels like painting with pudding.

I have made some headway in the John Brown biography, and thus far I've been struck by how Miltonic his version of Puritanism seems . . . not that Brown was a scholar, but the way in which their stern beliefs fed their social radicalism does seem to have parallels.

Here's what Reynolds writes, in John Brown, Abolitionist:
Normally Puritanism does not factor in histories of the Civil War. A widely held view is that Puritanism, far from stirring up warlike emotions, had by the nineteenth century softened into a benign faith in America's millennial promise. Supposedly, it buttressed mainstream cultural values, fostering consensus and conformity.
For many in the Civil War era, however, Puritanism meant radical individualism and subversive social agitation. In 1863, the Democratic congressman Samuel Cox typically blamed the Civil War on disruptive New England reform movements that he said were rooted in Puritanism. He insisted that fanatical Abolitionism caused the war, and, in his words, "Abolition is the offspring of Puritanism. . . . Puritanism is a reptile which has been boring into the mound, which is the Constitution, and this civil war comes in like a devouring sea!"

Friday, September 29, 2017

Good morning . . . and sorry for running late today. Though I've been awake for hours and I've been doing work stuff and house stuff, I've only just now managed to get dressed and back to my laptop.

It's 40 degrees here this morning, a extreme swing from where we've been for the past several days. Tom is so relieved. Framing a three-story house, which is never fun, is a misery in hot weather. And then after work, he's had to go to deal with our own feckless house. He does not lead an easy life.

In the meantime, I edit and try to track down subcontractors and read about John Brown and paint rooms and cook  meals and fold laundry and throw a few more phrases into the long one-sentence poem I've been stringing along for the past week or so. It's probably a miserable piece of work, but it's keeping me going, in a playing-scales kind of way.

Still no word about the Autumn House results. But yesterday I applied for an Obama Foundation Fellowship in the hopes of being able to disseminate the work we do at the Frost Place more widely. I won't get it, of course, but the act of writing about that work was uplifting.

And all three of my invited guest poets said yes. Let the 2018 season begin!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Today I think the weather will moderate to something more akin to September in Maine. It's about time. I love summer, but this weather has been exhausting.

My John Brown book arrived yesterday, thank goodness; and when Tom got home and saw it on the coffee table, he asked, "How many chapters have you read already?" Fortunately, I preserved my self-respect and was able to say in a dignified manner, "I did not have time to read today. I only got through the preface and part of chapter 1."

But guess what? I switched paint colors! Now instead of Ceiling White, everything I touch will be French Moire, which in case you were wondering is kind of a subdued robin's egg blue. It's going on the walls of our bedroom and my study, to be accompanied with, eventually, On the Rocks trim and a Sunny Veranda alcove. (That's pale grey and bright yellow, for those not in the know.)

I also filled out two W-9 forms, which, though dull on the surface, is a signal that two institutions are preparing to pay me some money. So that had its charms as well.

As you can see, my life is full of poetry.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fog drapes thinly over the bay, and already the humidity is intensifying.

I'm back at my desk today: no morning walk past the cruise ships disgorging their thousands. I have a wagonload of editing work to do, and I also have some hopes of dipping back into my poem-in-progress. I also have endless painting work to do, so who knows what will transpire?

Yesterday evening Tom and I went to the tile store and sort of narrowed down what we like for the kitchen floor (grey slate or its porcelain twin) and the counter backsplash (red glass). Tom will be building the cabinets of fir, and I think we'll have white countertop. And he got word from the city that they're about to issue our building permit. I guess that means things will be shortly be hustling along.

I'm feeling good at the moment, despite also feeling overwhelmed by duty. My two days among the teachers were revivifying, and I'm glad to have so much steady editing work. My new garden is producing new greens: this evening, I'll harvest a batch of kale and chard. I've been playing music, and hanging out with friends, and carving out a small space for private thought.

But Puerto Rico.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Here it is, 7:15 a.m. in Maine at the end of September, and I am decked out in full July gear--sleeveless shirt, summer skirt, flip-flops. Sweat is already beading up along the bridge of my nose. Portland is so hot and humid. It's very strange.

This morning I will walk down past the docks again, past the giant cruise ships disgorging their passengers, past the sellers of lobster-decorated geegaws, past the homeless man sitting in the middle of the sidewalk declaiming, "Welcome to Portland!" amid a stampede of oblivious visitors. . . . The tourist explosion is unsettling. I've never lived in such a place before.

Fortunately my end goal will be worth it. Yesterday I spent all day doing teacher-training stuff at the Telling Room, and I have to say: it is sweet to be surrounded by eager, dedicated people--many younger than me, a few older--who love the word, and love young people, and love collaboration; whose discomfort with the system guides their eagerness to swoop into schools and do this guerrilla work. It's a pretty wonderful scenario, and I am more and more certain that I'm going to fit in just fine here.

Monday, September 25, 2017

On Saturday evening, I played one of the hottest open-air gigs ever: 90 degrees in the shade at the end of September in central Maine. But then Tom and I had a lovely noisy talky overnight in Wellington. And in the morning we stopped in Skowhegan to buy $600 worth of house paint and drove south via Waterville, where we stopped to look at the Marsden Hartley show at the Colby College Museum. For dinner we had mushroom risotto with a passel of honey mushrooms my friend Steve had picked for us. And then we fell asleep in sweaty exhaustion.

Today will be different. I'll be spending two workdays at the Telling Room, doing various inservice-y things with the other teaching artists. I'm a bit anxious about leaving my desk, where I am juggling back and forth among five different projects, with subjects as varyied as "politics in Tanzania," "getting a job on Wall Street," and "how is Walt Whitman like the founder of Mormonism?" I'm also a bit relieved to be leaving my desk. My brain is tumbling with other people's necessary facts.

So, as a break, today and tomorrow I'll have a 9:30-to-3 job, almost sort of like a regular person's, if that person went to work late and came home early.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

This afternoon Tom and I will head north to the homeland, where the band and I will play a gig at a community party in Sangerville and Tom will amuse himself till we're done. This will be his first visit north since last winter, and I wonder what it will feel like for him.

The weather is supposed to be strangely hot today, so this gazebo gig will apparently not be much like one we played at Moosehead in August, when I thought the north wind would drag us into the lake.

I have been on a roll lately, at least as regards dinner. I told you about the pan-fried scup we had a couple of nights ago. Well, last night I took a notion to mix together some coarse mustard, olive oil, cayenne, salt/pepper, and chopped rosemary; spread it all over a small boneless pork loin; and bake it for an hour at 325 degrees. It was magnificent, and just about as easy as opening a package of Oreos . . . a fine after-house-painting-when-you-are-starving-but-sick-of-working meal.

In actual news: I'm just about to send off invitation letters to guest faculty for the 2018 Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching. I hope they say yes, I hope they say yes.

Friday, September 22, 2017

from Nigel Nicolson's introduction to The Letters of Virginia Woolf, vol. 2, 1912-1922

Between 1912 and 1922 Virginia Woolf married, published her first three novels, twice went mad, and co-founded the Hogarth Press. The same years contained the First World War. It was a massive experience for someone so mentally frail. But the impression left by her letters is that she was stronger at the end of this decade than at the beginning, stronger in creative power, in social energy, in audacity. If this is true, it was due primarily to the happiness of her marriage.

When two people of independent minds marry, they must be able to rely upon each other's tolerance, affection and support. Each must encourage, without jealousy, the full development of the other's gifts, each allow the other privacy, different interests, different friends. But they must share an intellectual and moral base. One of them cannot be philistine if the other is constantly breasting new ideas. They cannot disagree wildly on what is right and wrong. Above all, their love must grow as passion fades--and Virginia never experienced much passion--particularly if they have no children. And if they face, as Virginia and Leonard faced, the ultimate calamity that she might at any moment go raving mad and turn upon him with vitriolic abuse, then he must draw upon all the reserves their marriage has accumulated, and expend them freely, knowing they will be renewed by his very effort of sustaining both of them through her long ordeal.

* * *

In a few weeks I will turn 53. I've spent half of those years married to one man--more than half, if I count the years we spent together beforehand. I met him when I was 19; he moved in with me when I was 21; we got around to getting married when we were 26. It's been a long road.

Neither of us suffers from an illness of the Virginia Woolf magnitude. But neither of us has been entirely easy to live with. In that, we are normal human beings, bumbling along, sometimes grouchily or worse, but sometimes also with sudden awareness of the pleasure of being together.

Yesterday was one of those days. We met late in the day at the new house. I was in my ugliest clothes and a terrible straw hat, painting ceilings and listening to a Burning Spear album. Tom was in his ugliest clothes, exhausted from a workday spent house building in the sun. So we hung out quietly, puttering around at our tasks, having pedestrian conversations about where to install outlets and light switches, considering potential paint colors for various rooms. There was nothing scintillating about this conversation, and we were the only two people in the world who cared about it.

And then, eventually, I put away my paint things and went back to the doll-house to get dinner started. And a few hours later he finished up his tasks and came back to meet me. And I poured him a glass of wine, and I made rice and pan-fried two fresh scup and made a salad with ripe pears and fresh arugula from my new garden. And we were both delighted: a delight that was palpable in the air. A plain meal, a plain evening. We did not talk about art or books. We shared nothing that was particularly intellectual or creative. So what was it that made us so glad?

Such moments are the mystery of a long partnership, and I want to bottle them up and preserve them for the winter of our discontent, which is surely coming. They are the light, these gifts.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thanks to Jose, who keeps diddling in circles off the North Atlantic coast, a tropical breeze is whipping through the feathers of the honeylocust tree outside my bedroom window. Even the placid bay is choppy this morning.

Yesterday, at the "new" house, the furnace guy spent two hours removing "the most amount of soot I have ever seen in a furnace! Let me show you all the photos I took!" So I dutifully stood around admiring his photos of clogged pipes, heaps of crud, and so on. It was strangely reminiscent of the sewer-pipe video we saw during the house inspection.

On the bright side, however, the furnace seems to be in great shape, now that the clogs are unclogged. So maybe, despite our lack of insulation, we will have some hope of staying warm this winter.

My fat book about John Brown still has not arrived, so I have been driven to reading seed catalogs and long, doleful articles about North Korea. Oy.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Good morning from damp and windy Portland, where we are feeling the innocuous effects of Jose, spinning torpidly off to our southeast. The air is mild and thick with humidity, the breeze is steady, and the open-ocean waves are high. For us, this is sweet seaside weather . . . a terrible contrast with what the Caribbean is facing yet again. It is hard to allow myself to take pleasure in it.

Today I will start a couple of new editing projects, and then I'll be off to the new house to paint ceilings, greet the furnace guy, and pick my first crop of arugula, which apparently loves this weather. My friend David sent me a photograph from his hometown in western Canada, where it is snowing. In the meantime, here in sort-of-temperate Portland, all of the gardeners have too many tomatoes, the grapevines are loaded, and the heavy-headed basil is toppling. Next year maybe I will be the one trying to give it all away. For the moment, however, I am taking all of the free tomatoes I can get.

But I am still stuck reading magazines. Blah. Hurry up and get here, fat book.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Yesterday I went on my first local mushrooming walk. A friend took me to a wooded area in Cape Elizabeth, in search of miatakes, which we did not find. But she discovered some oyster mushrooms, and I picked some cadillacs and a handful of late chanterelles, which was thrilling.

For the past several days Portland has been enveloped in fog. My mushrooming friend calls this "island weather," which I think is a lovely term. The air is heavy with droplets; glasses fog up; hair stands on end; all dogs smell like wet dog; buildings and trees and water are draped in veils. Yet the wind is mild, the dampness exhilarating. Island weather is beautiful.

I do hope my John Brown autobiography arrives today because I have run out of things to read and have been driven to propping up the New Yorker in front of my breakfast plate. I have nothing against the New Yorker, but the fact that it's full of Current Stuff I Should Know is, for some reason, not a good-enough draw. I don't want to read a magazine. I want to read a book.

Monday, September 18, 2017

I drove up north yesterday afternoon for a band gig, spent the night in beautiful silent starlit Wellington, and then trundled home to the city to paint a ceiling. Next weekend will be more of the same: for some reason, we ended up with a bunch of fall gigs.

This week I'll be starting a couple of new editing projects, for private clients, on subjects I don't usually deal with, so that will be something new. I've got a poem draft burbling on the stove, and more ceilings to paint, and all of the doll-house housework to do. A friend and I might be going on a mushroom walk today.

But back to that burbling poem draft: it might be nothing, but I like how its sentences are rolling out of my fingers. If nothing else, it seems to be giving me the pleasure of composition and God knows that's not a given.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

I have been editing a book of academic essays, which the compilers have organized as a tribute to the work of the scholar David S. Reynolds, whose field is the American Renaissance--that is, nineteenth-century American literature and culture. I had no idea that Reynolds was such an influence among academics, but he has certainly influenced me. I think I have read his book Walt Whitman's America three or four times; it offers such an amazing display of the way in which Whitman absorbed his busy world into his work. As biographies go, I would put it on the shelf right up there next to Jackson Bate's biography of Keats.

So yesterday, as I was reaching the end of my editing assignment, I realized that Reynolds had written the afterword of the manuscript--I was going to be editing the man himself. And I was not much surprised to learn that he is a beautiful writer who required very little from me. The essay was about Lincoln and religion--gleaned, I'm assuming, from the biography of Lincoln that is his current project. So while I can't buy that book yet (and I will), I can buy the one I've been meaning to read for a while: Reynolds's biography of the abolitionist John Brown. That will fit beautifully into my current transcendentalist meanderings, as both Thoreau and the Alcotts sympathized with Brown's radical actions.

There is nothing like falling down the reading rabbit-hole, is there? Let us lift a glass to the libraries and the bookcases and the old falling-apart volumes and the books we meant to read and finally did and the books we stumble over with joy and the curious jolt of rereading the same book twenty times and the heft of a fat hardback in the hand.

Friday, September 15, 2017

We may or may not have rain today, but the air is heavy and the light is slow. Down at the wharf, the island barge is beeping and clanking. From the kitchen, Tom calls, "Ruckus!" and the cat gallops off to see what's what. I am nearly finished with the last of my trilogy of Alcott novels, Jo's Boys, and wondering what to read next.

I've been thinking this week about generations, of course. This was my first visit to one of my sons in a home he had made: not just a decorated dorm room but a living space arranged with another loved human being. And there was something so moving in that . . . in watching my son be a good man, a caretaker, a partner. It was yet another miracle, among the so many surprising miracles of life that I have never imagined.

Today I hope to find a small space for writing something that belongs to me.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sorry I didn't drop you a line yesterday. I had company in the morning, and a chimney sweep in the afternoon, and two tons of laundry and editorial duties in the interstices. The good news is that the chimney flue in the new house is lined and usable. The semi-bad news is that the woodstove is overfired junk. It's an ugly little chunk, so we're not heartbroken. But it might have been nice not to have to buy yet another expensive thing right away.

I am feeling kind of lonesome for my son and his girlfriend this morning. The three of us had such an extremely good time together in Chicago.

But enough of such repining. I have a book to edit.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Last Day of the Travelogue

Yesterday James took me to the studio where he works as a camera assistant for the NBC TV show Chicago Fire. The place is enormous, taking up at least two city blocks, and the surrounding streets are jammed with trucks, security, catering setups, trailers, not to mention many city emergency vehicles. The buildings we wandered through house the stages for both Chicago Fire and its sister show Chicago PD. We'd walk through what looked like a basic backstage area and then suddenly be in an enormous fake bar, or fake locker room, or fake hospital corridor, or fake bunk house, or fake police sergeant office. The difference between reality and fakery became difficult to determine. Unlike a theater set, a TV set has to mimic the tiny close-up details that a camera will catch. The sergeant's office walls have to have chips on the wall where the actor leans back in his desk chair during a scene. The interrogation room has to have rusty stains that might or might not be blood. I'd linger in one of these hyperrealistic rooms and then walk into the next one, also hyperrealistic, but this time filled with crew killing time between shots: say, lying around on the fake bunks or leaning up against the fake walls. I began to feel as if I were at Madame Tussaud's and the guards were playing "am I real or wax?" tricks on me.

But everyone seems to love James, from his bosses to the catering staff, so that was of course delightful. He always has had the trick, ever since childhood, of knowing how to project public eagerness, curiosity, and good cheer. And the rest of his family has always been impressed and amazed, since we are not so good at that.

In so many ways, this whole trip has been a magical event for me. That noisy little get-into-everything boy has transformed into a smart, hardworking, funny, reliable, curious, and extremely loving man. How did I get to be so lucky to be his mother?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Yesterday we went to a circus and to three grocery stores, and then we made a long, involved snack meal of spring rolls and potato-kimchee salad and watermelon with mint and black pepper. And we talked and talked, and then we got dozy on the couch in front of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
My son's partner: People ask me, Is James really that sweet? And I say, Yes, he really is.  His whole family is that sweet.
James [smiling.] 
Me: [beaming.]
It was that kind of evening. I am very happy to be here.

On the docket today: a visit to my son's TV studio, a visit to the Museum of the History of Chicago, dinner at a Russian restaurant with my brother-in-law, who texted J to say he's in town for work. That was unexpected. Who knew coming to Chicago would end up being a family reunion?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Voyage through the Funny Plant Names in the Lincoln Park Greenhouse












* * *

P.S. We also looked at poisonous snakes at the zoo, ate a whole lot of Ethiopian food, sat next to Lake Michigan, walked about a hundred miles, and giggled.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

More Travelogue

From the window of the train from O'Hare into downtown, I noticed that the Evangelical Covenant Church is next door to Hooters. Also I sat across from a woman in a baseball hat, embroidered with roses, that read "Property of No One."

Finally I arrived in my son's neighborhood, Pilsen, where most people speak Spanish and the stores are stocked with unlabeled bags of some kind of food that might be pork rinds or might be pastries. I wish I knew.

We spent most of the afternoon walking around, looking at fading flower gardens and peering into crowded shop windows, and I listened to my son and his girlfriend tell fine old fashioned tales about incompetent landlords and bizarre tenants and an old guy in a top hat and an antique Oldsmobile who feeds the local stray cats.

Today, I hear, we are going to the zoo. In the meantime, I am lying here in bed listening to the elevated train rattle by. Also, a rooster is crowing. That is a peculiar combination of noises.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Travelogue

Here I sit, at Gate B33 at Logan Airport, staring surreptitiously at a sweet yawning baby. In this place the babies are the only ones who aren't staring at screens and/or consuming complicated Starbucks drinks.

You may be interested to know that, in order to get to the airport, my bus needed to drive past the following:
Necco Wafer Factory
Exotic Collision Services
Sign advertising "Visit the 35-Foot-Tall Madonna"(Jesus' ma, not the pop star . . . I think)
So far, that's it for interesting observations. Everything else in this airport is exquisitely dull. The overhead speakers have shifted from "Eine Kleine Nachtmusick" to Frank Sinatra. The carpets are grey with beige stripes. An employee is slowly rolling up a yellow extension cord. The yawning baby's daddy is wiggling a rattle. I am not wishing I were snacking on a Necco Wafer, though I would not mind seeing the Madonna.

Now I will eat my cheese and tomato sandwich and read Little Women. Stay tuned for more fascinating updates.

* * *

I have just returned from a trip to purchase a bag of shockingly overpriced almonds. However, given that I ate my lunch at 9 a.m., I suspect I may need some in-flight sustenance. So overpriced almonds it is.

In search of novelty, I have moved to a different seat in the lounge. Now I am next to the yawning baby's daddy, who is cooing into the stroller.

Daddy. You gonna get on that plane and stink the place up? [blows kiss] You gonna do that to Daddy?

Baby. [Yawp]

Daddy. What you trying to say, man? [giggle, giggle, blows kiss]. Aw, what you talking about? You talking to me? I'm talking to you. Are we talking to each other?
Baby. [Yawp.]
Seems like Baby and Daddy have a good life ahead of them.

* * *

Thursday, September 7, 2017

It is still raining. The dog walkers are huddled inside their boots and hoods, and the dogs are galloping over the wet grass. Bay and sky are identical, just a strip of island horizon between them.

Tomorrow morning, very early, I will catch a bus to Boston and from there fly to Chicago. So today will be laundry day, and "ugh, why are my clothes so awful?" day, and "can I bring this on the plane?" day, etcetera, etcetera. But I'm also going to venture out into the rain to buy the ingredients for Portuguese seafood stew: clams, mussels, linguica, potatoes. This stew is one of the most delicious foods in the world, and I love to make it, even in the doll-house kitchen.

With that hurricane barreling toward the coast, I am beginning to wonder about my return flight. Perhaps I'll be stranded in Chicago with my son. There could be worse things.

Well, I know I won't be writing to you first thing tomorrow, but I expect to send you plenty of updates from the places I'll be visiting--for instance, the waiting area at Logan, where I'll be idling for a few hours. As far as I know, the only entertainment plan my son and his girlfriend have made is to go to the circus on Saturday. Given that the tickets cost a mere $5 each, I am wondering if it will be a flea circus. You can be sure I'll let you know.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

All the news is bad: DACA, North Korea, hurricanes. Meanwhile, the fog hovers over Casco Bay. It is not at all like Sandberg's little cat feet. It is more like a large broody hen puffed up to fool a hawk. The air is thick with moisture and foreboding.

I finished Wolf Hall and have been reading Maurice Manning's startling collection Lawrence Booth's Book of Visions. And yesterday I took an omnibus Alcott out of the library, as something to read on the plane and in airports. It seemed to me that the educational philosophies of Bronson, as delineated by Louisa, might be just the ticket. I have no idea why I find those novels so comforting, but I do.

Given the weather forecast--thunderstorm, thunderstorm, thunderstorm--I doubt I'll be doing much gardening today. I'd like to walk down to the fish market, but that may not happen either. I do have a pile of editing on my desk. I do need to make appointments with the burner-service guy and the chimney sweep. I should figure out how to get from O'Hare to my son's apartment.

But I also have a kind of loose aimlessness in my thoughts . . . a sensation that often precedes writing. So maybe this day will veer into a different world.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Well, I'm back in Portland for a few days . . . until Friday, when I fly to Chicago for a holiday with Number One Son. I'm hoping that trip won't be quite as wet as this past weekend's was. Moving Number Two Son into his dorm room was a soggy adventure.

I checked in on my new transplants yesterday and they were flat, thanks to the weekend downpour, but I think they will rally. Of course I forgot to take photos for you. Perhaps I'll remember to do that today.

Today there's no rain, not yet anyway, but the breeze is brisk and the humidity is high. I have a long list of itchy this-and-that things to do: edit a gnarled manuscript, design a syllabus, research oil-delivery companies, remember to buy my sister a birthday present, and so on and so on.

This is the month that I will learn I did not win the Autumn House Prize for Poetry. I cannot imagine it will go any other way. Still, I am waiting to hear.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

If By Dull Rhymes Our English Must Be Chain'd

John Keats


If by dull rhymes our English must be chain'd,
And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet
Fetter'd, in spite of pained loveliness;
Let us find out, if we must be constrain'd,
Sandals more interwoven and complete
To fit the naked foot of poesy;
Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress
Of every chord, and see what may be gain'd
By ear industrious, and attention meet:
Misers of sound and syllable, no less
Than Midas of his coinage, let us be
Jealous of dead leaves in the bay wreath crown;
So, if we may not let the Muse be free,
She will be bound with garlands of her own.


* * *

I am here sitting here, in my little doll-house apartment, on the second floor of an elegant Victorian overlooking the sea, mooning over the memory of the half-imaginary garden beside my shabby little cape, with its ugly vinyl siding and its view of other people's backyards. And for some reason, the phantom of John Keats has floated in through the closed window . . . John Keats, that stumpy little commoner, so deeply enraptured with the earth and the words. He was no gardener, of course; he was a city boy through and through. Yet his eye caressed the world. He was always attuned to "pained loveliness." The sonnet I just shared is not one of his best, but I like it anyway: I like that it shows me how his mind was working, how he was thinking his way through the task of making a poem. I am all about making these days.

* * *

You probably won't hear from me for a day or two, as I'll be on the road, taking the boy back to college. But I will try to remember today to take some pictures of the garden-to-be . . . the first draft, ripe for revision. I'm not a very good photographer, and mostly all you'll see is dirt. But dirt has its beauties.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The temperature is in the 40s this morning, and a huddled-up crow, looking windblown and disgruntled, is perched on the tip of the "Founding of Portland" obelisk across the street from my bedroom window. We are beginning the down-slope to autumn.

I have had the sensation of small bursts of words behind my skull . . . nothing at all like a poem, but a gathering-together of tools, an accumulation. I am beginning to imagine I could be a writer again. Still, mostly what I am is a landscaper. Yesterday I finished spreading the new soil in the garden beds and began digging up flagstones from the side-yard wasteland. Once, long ago, somebody had an idea about a patio. But the flags sank into the earth, and then someone dribbled gravel over them, and then everyone forgot them. So now I am prying them up and loading them into the wheelbarrow and trundling them out to the front yard to create paths and step stones inside the beds. As soon I finish that arrangement, I can lay drip hose for irrigation, and then, finally, I'll be able to think about fall planting.

Needless to say, all of my garden muscles are shouting, "Hello! We thought you had forgotten us!" My hands hurt and my shoulders ache and the backs of my legs are weary. I've got a bruise under a fingernail where I bashed it with a rock, and bruises on my thighs where I bashed them with the wheelbarrow. Still, it is lovely to rediscover my sturdy old body. We've been friends for a long time.

One thing that's so different about gardening in town instead of the country is that I'm constantly on view. All of my gardening in Harmony was a strictly private matter. But on the Street of the Transcendentalists, everyone gets to watch the show. There I am, in the front yard of a tiny residential street, houses packed close together, and I'm recklessly yanking around rocks and soil and hauling away piles of weeds. So everybody notices, and half of them drop by to say hello. [Thus far my favorite conversation has been with the second-grader across the street, who appeared suddenly to hang out and tell me about her cat, Jack. You'll be interested to hear that he has staring contests with the dog on the other block.]

Thursday, August 31, 2017

I want to remind you Portland-area locals that I'll be leading a 10-week poetry master class for the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance this fall, beginning on September 14. At least I'm hoping I'll be leading it because if we don't get enough sign-ups, it won't run. And since I'd really like it to run, I'm begging you wafflers to go ahead and take the plunge and register so we can hang out for 10 weeks together.

I realized lately that this will be the first Labor Day Weekend in approximately 20 years that I won't be staffing the Harmony Fair's exhibit hall. I did, in fact, get an invitation to serve as the vegetable judge, but I've got to drive the boy to college, so I had to say no. I thought I'd feel more melancholy than I do about missing the fair, but maybe 20 years spent breathing dust and shouting over the roar of truck pulls is long enough. Instead, I will be hauling boxes out of a Vermont storage unit, lugging a "portable" keyboard up dormitory stairs, and exchanging wan smiles with other students' similarly laden parents. And then I will embrace the boy and drive away to eat a peaceable dinner with my in-laws. On the whole it will be better than arguing with a crabby old man over why his head of garlic didn't get a blue ribbon.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A small wind twitches the feathers of the honeylocust outside my window. The morning is dark, as if rain lurks in the clouds, though the forecast claims otherwise. Like you, I am melancholy about Texas and Louisiana, drowning in those torrents rushing down and down and down from a chaotic sky; and, perhaps like you, I've been thinking about those scenarios in which nightmares become fact: when the storm does destroy your home, the man in the van does kidnap your child, the speeding car does kill your lover . . . how we may take precautions, avoid risk, sink into existential dread, yet we cannot prepare ourselves for fate.

A small wind twitches the feathers of the honeylocust outside my window. A black-haired youth, shoulders slumped, strides down the sidewalk and out of sight. A tiny dog sits patiently as his owner checks her phone. The minutiae, the unimportant moments, gather and dissipate. We live and die in our cloak of forgetting. Yet the red bicycle is still chained to the post, as it has been for the past week. What happened to its rider? Who possesses the key?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

It's another cool morning in Maine. The little sailboats moored in the bay all point their noses toward the west, as if they're a herd of cows grazing in a field. Cars swish up and down the streets, and a woman strolls along the sidewalk with a cat slung over her arm.

Son Number 2 came home last night and immediately devoured most of a pan of lasagna. Tom has taken to calling him Twelve Thousand Calorie Boy. I guess canoeing for a thousand miles gives you a certain amount of leeway in food intake.

Today the compost people will be delivering my truckload of soil, but instead of raking out garden beds I will be at the mall (ugh) trying to figure out if we can get Twelve Thousand Calorie Boy's phone repaired before he goes back to college.

One of these days I will be a poet again.

Monday, August 28, 2017

I woke up with all the windows wide open and the air temperature outside my comforter hovering at 50 degrees. How did summer disappear so suddenly? I guess I'd best remember to shut the windows before I go to bed.

Tom and I started off our day yesterday by shopping for paint. Then he began prepping the upstairs walls, and I turned my attention to the back yard, which is a desert of neglect overhung by three enormous gorgeous maples. The yard beneath those massive trees is a big square of dirt interspersed with a few ugly prickly weeds, its fence lines cluttered with rotten tarps, old hammocks and chairs, empty cans of Silly String, and miscellaneous windblown trash, all mixed in with last year's leaves and a couple of semi-stacked cords of firewood. My only goals were to separate the leaves, brush, stones, and garbage into piles and to restack the firewood more intelligently. No beautifying will be possible till next spring, but at least I can try to make the space more usable as a staging area. And I'm happy to say that after an afternoon's labor we now have a tidy woodpile and a discreet and useful compost-bin/leaf-mulch arrangement behind the shed. All the disgusting trash is stored away inside the shed for next Saturday's dump trip, and this afternoon I can start moving another lopsided stack of firewood from the middle of the driveway (Why is it there, you ask? I have no idea) and rake out whatever nasty junk is hiding behind it. There will be plenty.

In the interstices I'll be catching up on doll-house housework, editing a book about the spiritual influences of 19th-century American writers, and eventually fetching Son Number 2 from the airport. So I will leave you with this hilarious passage from Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, in which Thomas Cromwell jokingly tells Anne Boleyn what would have been in store for her had she married a northern lord. Reading this description feels like reading a 16th-century article from the National Enquirer.
"My lady," he turns to Anne, "you would not like to be in Harry Percy's country. For you know he would do as those northern lords do, and keep you in a freezing turret up a winding stair, and only let you come down for your dinner. And just as you are seated, and they are bringing in a pudding made of oatmeal mixed with the blood of cattle they have got in a raid, my lord comes thundering in, swinging a sack--oh, sweetheart, you say, a present for me? and he says, aye, madam, if it please you, and opens the sack and into your lap rolls the severed head of a Scot."

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Strange to say, I completely forgot to write you a note yesterday morning. Friday I was still up north, sleeping off the after-effects of a freezing-cold gig alongside the windy shores of Moosehead Lake. But I have no excuse for not writing yesterday . . . only the distractions of garden design. I have been sleeping terribly of late, waking up at 2 a.m. to fret over "what do I need to do next?" and "don't forget to order ____" and "how do I find a person to ____?" and so on and so on. None of this is anything I need to worry about at 2 a.m., but my brain is an idiot.

In any case, here I am today, ready to share boring stories about paint chips and the price of a truckload of compost. I have been laying newsprint weed barriers, and digging out saplings, and reaming out ugly old misplaced perennials and spreading bags of fresh soil, and laying drip hose for irrigation. I still can't touch half of the front yard because the sewer pipe guys have yet to rip it up. But once I get my truckload of compost delivered for the terraced bed, I can lay a few flagstone paths and begin some fall planting.

You won't be surprised to hear that I have done no writing, no copying out of Coriolanus or dreamy perusal of poems. My life revolves around editing, housework, gardenwork, and room painting is on the horizon. I read a bit of Wolf Hall every day; the reading light is never turned off, of course. But it is so good to have dirty hands again.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

This afternoon I will head north for a gig in Greenville. Thus, today will also be the first since becoming a homeowner that won't involve any visits to the new house. I feel a bit anxious about getting behind on my work there, but in truth I've accomplished a lot since last Friday. My primary focus has been an existing bed in the front yard. Some previous owner created it, even going so far as to construct a terrace with a retaining wall. I suppose that person also planted perennials in it, but there are no signs of them now. The bed's been ignored for half a decade, and whatever was originally imagined has vanished into a mess of weeds and saplings.

During this week's hot afternoons, I have been upside-down in that bed, ruthlessly ripping and pruning in order to reach some semblance of soil level. There's no way to completely dig out the roots, so my next step will be to create a weed barrier. For that I'm going to use layers of plain newsprint, purchased by the roll at the art-supply store down the street. (Earthworms love paper, so the newsprint will do double-duty as weed blocker and soil amender.) Then I'll water it well, and then I'll cover it with a load of fresh compost. And then it will be ready for a new life.

But I'll also need to work around the fact that one of these mornings an excavator will be showing up to cut a trench through the front yard and replace our sewer pipe. That's holding my enthusiasm in check. Also, this weekend I'll probably have to start painting rooms. I'm sure I'll be excited about fresh paint too, yet I feel kind of mournful about putting the garden on hiatus.

So now you have the bulletin from Transcendentalist House . . . a name that does not roll off the tongue, so perhaps I should call it Alcott House or maybe Emerson House. Thoreau House would surely be inappropriate: isn't that the one I left behind?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

It seems that Paul LePage, Maine's governor (who dreams of being Donald Trump when he grows up), is claiming that 7,600 Mainers fought for the Confederacy. This is just about the stupidest assertion possible. According to a response article in the Bangor Daily News, about 73,000 Mainers fought for the Union, so now I am wondering if the guv is confused about (1) the difference between Union and Confederacy and (2) where the comma goes in a big number. I mean, come on: as the Bangor Daily News article avers, during the Civil War, no one was more staunchly Unionist than Maine. And while about 30 Mainers are on record as fighting for the Confederacy, most of them were college students, so it's not clear if they were even from the state.

I am so tired of "I want it to be true; therefore, it is true" politics. And in this case, I'm also appalled that our governor is impugning the history of his own state. The vast majority of Mainers were not treasonous. Those who fought did so because they wanted to preserve the nation, not break it apart.

In western Pennsylvania, the KKK burnt crosses to terrify my Polish immigrant ancestors. In central New Jersey, my Dutch and Quaker forebears owned slaves. My family history is not either-or. It's both-and. I am all for facing up to history, and to our faults and errors in grappling with it. I believe we carry the weight of our family's past, as well as of our larger social, political, and cultural pasts. I believe we need to admit to the evil therein. But in the case of "7,600 Mainers fought for the Conderacy," LePage is inventing a treachery that did not exist. If I were the descendant of a Maine Civil War veteran, I would be livid.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A small glimpse into the history of fake news . . .

Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor, has put his signature first on all the articles against Wolsey. They say one strange allegation has been added at his behest. The cardinal is accused of whispering in the king's ear and breathing into his face; since the cardinal has the French pox, he intended to infect our monarch.

When [Cromwell] hears this he thinks, imagine living inside the Lord Chancellor's head. Imagine writing down such a charge and taking it to the printer, and circulating it through the court and through the realm, putting it out there to where people will believe anything; putting it out there, to the shepherds on the hills, to Tyndale's plowboy, to the beggar on the roads and the patient beast in its byre or stall; out there to the bitter winter winds, and to the weak early sun, and the snowdrops in the London gardens.

[from Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall]

Monday, August 21, 2017

My recommendation is: if you want to meet new people, smear yourself with dirt, put on your ugliest hat, and arrange yourself in an upside-down weeding position in the front yard. Neighbors immediately appear.

But as I suspected, everyone is relieved to see someone tackling the local weed-pit. They all showed up smiling.

This morning I'll be back to work in the doll-house: mostly editing but also doing some Frost Place planning. In the afternoon I hope to celebrate the eclipse by being upside down in the garden bed again.

Tom has made no more shocking house discoveries, unless you count a myriad of terrible electrical connections. He has, however, unearthed a potentially beautiful fir floor beneath the hideous kitchen tiles. Given the number of screw holes in the floor, he may not be able rescue it, but we're hoping.

Have I remembered to tell you that the house is on Concord Street? The address makes me feel very transcendental.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Yesterday Tom hauled a thousand pounds of old kitchen to the dump. Among other less-than-excellent discoveries, he noted that there appears to be zero insulation in our house's exterior walls. Zero. Not even a snuff bottle or an old newspaper. I guess I will be wearing many sweaters this winter.

But our spirits are still mostly high. We walked from the house to downtown for lunch, and it only took us about half an hour to get there. The neighborhood is pleasantly not filled with tourists, which makes a nice change from the beauty spot we currently inhabit. I managed to assemble two compost bins and a wheelbarrow without asking Tom for any help, and cutting myself only slightly in the process. We drove out to our storage basement and liberated garden tools, a chainsaw, a come-along, a small table, and two chairs from storage. So now we can yank out shrubbery and afterward sit down and rest.

I haven't met any neighbors yet, but I hope that happens soon. I hope they like me. I hope I can finally start razing a flower garden this morning.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Thank you--you know who you are--for your little notes of affection about the new house. Everything went perfectly at the closing, despite my irrational fears about having brought along the wrong amount of money, and 45 minutes after closing Tom was tearing out the old kitchen.

I did not do any gardening as it was pouring rain all day. But I did buy a wheelbarrow and work gloves. And I spent several hours wandering from room to room, trying to imagine new paint colors, re-sanded floors . . . actually, mostly not even thinking about those sensible things but simply looking out the windows and existing in the space. The neighbors have beautiful gardens: our yard is the local eyesore. There is a daunting amount of work to do, and I woke up at 4 a.m. this morning filled with worry. That's just night fears; in daylight I know I can manage it.

And yesterday I felt so peaceful listening to Tom tear out cabinets. I looked at the street in the rain. I went upstairs and stood in my tiny future study and wondered what books my eyes will light on as I lift my eyes from my writing. I leaned in the doorway of our bedroom and pictured how the morning shadows will fall on the bed. I went downstairs and stood in the big empty dining room and imagined a table set for a party and the scent of fresh bread lingering in the hallway.

Today, if things dry out a bit, I hope to begin work in the front flowerbed, which is a mess of weeds and jerusalem artichokes run rampant and baby maples trying to gain a foothold. With luck I may be planting bulbs in a few weeks.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Yesterday I received a message from a young woman I have known since her infancy--a smart, lovable, loving girl who has dealt with a fair amount of adversity but somehow has managed to rise above it and to thrive. She graduated from a central Maine high school last spring and will be attending a state university this fall. And she is heartsick about the events in Charlottesville and beyond. Her letter to me was essentially "What can I do? What can I do? What can I do?" She told me she was reading books, talking to people, trying to find her footing. But would any of that matter?

My first reaction on reading this note was to feel an overwhelming sense of humility and panic that this young woman would see me as any kind of resource in this moment of crisis. What can I, a middle-aged white woman, say to her? I share her privilege of skin color and birthright citizenship; I speak an educated East Coast vernacular and live in a cocoon of books and dreams. But of course, as you mothers and fathers and teachers know, being the grown up in the room means you have to step up and figure out how to help that young person in need.

Anyway, this is what I wrote back to her. If I should say more, please offer me some advice, and I will pass along your thoughts to her.
I think starting with books is a good idea. Learn all you can about the history of slavery in this country, the history of the civil rights movement, and so on. For instance, so many of these Confederate statues that Trump loves were put up in the 1950s as a backlash response to civil rights activities. So they aren't old Civil War-era pieces; they're direct in-your-face confrontations to freedom-seekers, and that's not history that most of us know. When you get to college, make a point of joining Black Lives Matter discussions; show by your presence that you're an ally. Volunteer with new-immigrant support groups. . . . The biggest thing is that you care, that you know our nation is in a dreadful spot, that you recognize how vital it is that we, as white people, do everything we can to stand up for the people who have not shared our easy privilege of skin color. I love you . . . because you are crying about this and because you are so brave.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Last night I had a beautiful little dinner party with two women writers--people I've known casually for years but am now getting to know better as both writers and friends. I am relieved to feel my homesickness lifting, to be relaxing into some semblance of a social life, to be looking forward rather than backward.

During the evening, my son sent me a note from California, telling me that the first thing he did after arriving in Los Angeles was to accompany his girlfriend's family to a plant nursery to buy a mandarin orange tree for their backyard. This struck my northwoods boy as hilarious.

Here in Portland, outside my bedroom window, a tow-truck driver is chaining up a wounded red minivan. A chilly breeze sifts through the doll-house, though the temperature is forecast to reach 80 later. I have a day of editing and errands before me. But I am doing none of those things yet, only staring dreamily out at the boats moored on the placid bay, only listening to the tow-truck driver crank the minivan onto his flatbed, only smelling the remnants of toast and coffee, only thinking of disconnected words.

Tomorrow we will close on our new house and life will take a turn.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

At 3:30 a.m. I got up to drive the boy to the airport; and though I tried to go back to sleep afterward, I was not very successful. I expect nap time will be arriving early today, yet for the moment I feel fine. I wonder why. I suppose it's because I haven't started to think about Trump yet.

Somewhere, in the distance, fire engines are blaring. The island freight barge is beeping down at the landing. Three big mutts are rolling around in the dry grass. A corgi, who imagines she is running, is huffing slowly up a steep hill.

I'd like to say something encouraging here: like, "Maybe it's a good thing our so-called president has finally come out into the open and admitted that he's a white supremacist. Now everyone knows for sure." Or "Maybe the Republicans will finally board that impeachment train now." But who the hell knows what's going to happen next? What's clear is that we are in the jaws of evil.

So I'll give you this small prayer, from Maurice Manning's Bucolics. If you don't know this collection of poems addressed to God (whom Manning calls "Boss"), you should. They feel a bit like reading a modern George Herbert. Whatever you think about organized religion, something to hold is more comfort than nothing.
Boss every morning is a morning
do you ever think about that
everything that stays the same
like rain like grass like you
you're always Boss boss
of the morning boss of my whistle
O boss of my little song

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The fog is lifting and I am feeling mournful. Perhaps it's the effect of the boat horns, those lonely calls through the mist, or perhaps it's merely August: the burnt grass, the weary foliage. I have not been writing much lately. Perhaps the distractions of the nation have undone me, and I should fight harder against them. Or perhaps I am in an August state of mind.

In any case, I am still reading--constantly, perpetually, obsessively, as I always have and likely always will. Presently I am finishing Muriel Spark's The Takeover, and copying out Coriolanus, and dipping into poetry collections by Nikky Finney and Maurice Manning. Something, at some point, will trigger me to write. I try to be patient.

Tomorrow the boy heads off for two weeks on the west coast. On Friday we buy a house. This morning I compose a note to you and wonder what I can say that will make you feel that reading it is worthwhile. I imagine spreading trivialities like margarine, as if they are facsimiles of a richer life. There are days when all art gives me the sensation of falsehood. There are days when I write simply by habit, because it's what my hands tell me to do.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sorry for the late post this morning. It's been one of those days when everything seems to connive at slowness and distraction . . . sticky floors, no bread, no coffee, laundry piling up. It's amazing what happens when I vanish for less than 24 hours and leave two guys to rule the roost. It's also amazing how many groceries a 19-year-old can consume, after having just spent the summer canoeing 900 miles in the Canadian wilderness. Every day we are out of everything.

But do not think I am complaining. It is a joy to be in Boy Land again.

Our gig in Monson went well--though, thanks to the gale-force winds off the lake, I came very close to having more than one Marilyn Monroe/white dress moment. It's hard to hold down a skirt when both hands are busy with a violin.

Today I'm back to editing, and back to driving the boy around, and back to living with existential dread. The dread did lift a bit yesterday, when I looked out into that crowd of central Mainers, with their hats and their beers and their work boots, as they sang along to "The Weight." I had a flicker of hope.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Later this morning I'll be heading two and a half hours north for an afternoon band gig at the Lakeshore House in Monson. After the show I'll drive back to Portland. It will be a long hot day, and I'm tired just thinking about it.

Already, the air is heavy, and the day's heat is flexing behind the morning's mist. I am sick at heart from yesterday's news, but trying, as I imagine you are, to trudge along. I suppose spending an afternoon playing music is not the worst thing I could be doing.

The man who drove the car into the crowd at Charlottesville was born in the same year as my own younger son. For some reason this distresses me, though it is nothing but coincidence. Yet I can't stop imaging that man as a child. And someone fed that child the poisons that spurred him to hatred.
And who’s this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe?
That’s tiny baby Adolf, the Hitlers’ little boy! 
--from Wislawa Szymborska, "Hitler's First Photograph"

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Last night a small rain fell in Portland, Maine.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Nazis marched by torchlight. At a golf club in New Jersey, an idiot played at destroying the world.

America, America. You break our hearts.

Friday, August 11, 2017

This morning, our Canadian traveler-boy returns home after an overnight bus ride from Toronto. I daresay he will look like Grizzly Adams when he gets off that bus--giant beard, big hair, tanned like a boot, and wild-eyed after a sleepless night.

Given his three months in the wilderness, he may not know that we're on the verge of nuclear war. And here all I thought I would have to do is to catch him up on baseball trades.

Well, anyway. Here we are. Every single thing we dreaded about a Trump presidency seems liable to come true. Will we saved by his stupidity or destroyed by his narcissism?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

We went to visit the house yesterday so that Tom could take measurements of all of the rooms, doors, windows, and the like. In the meantime I wandered around the yard and ambled up and down the neighborhood streets. I have so much grunt work ahead of me: years' worth of weeds, a couple of horrible prickly bushes to delete, choices about badly placed perennials (do they stay or do they go?), and finally planning new beds, new walkways, new patio space, new soil, new plants. The job will take years.

But yesterday Tom scored some free high-quality decking, left over from a renovation project he's doing--enough to repair both the front and back stoops. And I have been researching city compost projects, home compost bins, rain barrels, and such things, plus reading garden book after garden book. Though I have gardened for most of my life, I've never had to start from scratch like this--not to mention that dealing with 40 acres is a different thing entirely from dealing with a city plot. As city yards go, we've got a fair amount of room, certainly more than some of the neighboring houses have. But no one has ever loved it before, and that's what I need to learn to do.

In other news, no one has started a nuclear war yet.

* * *

I am slowly--excruciatingly slowly--continuing with my Coriolanus copying project. Part of the issue is that my Shakespeare omnibus is too big for my copying stand, so I have to crane and contort just to see the pages I'm trying to transcribe. But already I recognize that the politics of the play are unpleasantly resonant with our present-day situation. Shakespeare had the all-seeing eye.

* * *

Brutus. Mark’d you his lip and eyes?

Sicinius.                                                Nay, but his taunts.

Bru. Being mov’d, he will not spare to gird the gods.


Sic. Bemock the modest moon.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Except for the existential terrors of Trump and North Korea, things are going reasonably well in my life. We got news from the bank that our loan has been cleared and that they are scheduling the closing for August 18. Both Tom and I were amazed at how smoothly this all went. We had the hardest time even getting pre-qualified during our first attempt at home buying last fall. Yet this time we sailed through without any bank trouble at all. It's puzzling, but we're not complaining.

A lunchtime we are meeting at the house so that Tom can measure everything for building-permit purposes, and I am going to wander around the yard and consider landscaping issues. By next weekend, I could be making flowerbeds.

On the other hand, we may be immersed in nuclear winter, and all will be moot.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

After last night's reading, Tom and I meandered home along the water. The silhouetted ferry rumbled across the bay to Peaks Island. Televisions flickered behind half-curtained windows. The full moon hid among the silvered clouds. In the bandstand, a dozen young men were blasting Middle Eastern hip-hop, and they were laughing, and they were slowly, occasionally, breaking into a raised-arm, high-stepping dance . . . until the cop showed up and made them be quiet.

And now, this morning, a fragile grey rain percolates into my thirsty garden boxes, washes among the feather-leaves of the honeylocust outside my bedroom window. I am feeling elegiac, for no particular reason. My boys have been on my mind . . . each thriving in his own busy, absorbing world, yet both of them, this weekend, telephoning me from their far places, bubbling into my ear, telling jokes and sharing wonders. Meanwhile, in daily life I have returned to the old days--of being one of two, not one of four. It is such a peculiar change. I'm older and fatter and greyer now, but in some ways this stage of life is a reprise of being 22 years old and deciding to move in with a guy I really like and, gee, I hope it works out. A love nest, an argument nest, a perpetual date night--such close attention to each other after two decades of parental tag-teaming. It's alarming but often very, very sweet.

Anyway, today the rain is falling, Tom is off to build cabinets in the wood shop, Ruckus is clawing the new shower curtain, and I am gazing across the bay at moored sailboats and mist and distant houses among the island trees. We've just gotten word that the house sellers would like to close as soon as possible, so perhaps we'll be homeowners even earlier than we thought we would. That's fine; good, even. We're ready to start this new project of constructing a home for a family of two.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday, Monday, Monday.

The cars bustle, the dump trucks gasp, the joggers slap their shoes bap bap bap on the pavement, the dogs-n-owners rush and lollygag. The adjunct English teacher hikes up the sidewalk in his plaid shorts and Birkenstocks, glaring askance at the motorcycle guy in the well-ironed pink shirt who is joyously revving his engine. According to today's newspaper, one of the world's largest yachts is moored in the bay this morning. It is owned by a Russian oligarch, of course. The cat informs me that he would like to grow up be a Russian oligarch.

Today: more editing, more Coriolanus, and prep for tonight's reading; a long walk, more garden-design study, and something or other for dinner. I'm hoping to hear from my younger son, who should be getting back to his Temagami base camp today. In eleven days we will close on a new house, and nothing else has gone wrong, as far as we can tell. I am itching to start tearing out weeds. In twelve days I will once again be the kind of woman who owns a wheelbarrow and a compost pile.
Each time she reaches for her keys, she recalls what you must be
willing to turn into for love: spiny oyster mushrooms, damson, salt
marsh, cedar, creosote, new bud of pomegranate, Aegean sage blue
sea, fig, blueberry, marigold, leaf fall, frog's eye, dusty miller, thief-of-the-night. 
--from Nikky Finney's "Cattails"

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The fog has lifted, the rain has swept out to sea, and Sunday is dawning blue and gold. I am sitting at a grey kitchen table and wearing a red bathrobe and drinking black coffee from a white cup. On the table beside me are two books: Kenneth Roberts's Rabble in Arms and Nikky Finney's Head Off & Split. Outside the window, an invisible cardinal is singing, singing, singing.

I am feeling so strange right now, at least as regards my unpublished poetry manuscripts. One collection has just finaled for a national contest. The other is under serious consideration at two major publishing houses. Nothing may result; nothing probably will result. Yet I have never been in this position before. It bears some resemblance to an out-of-body experience, and I'm sorry if talking about it with you sounds like crowing. Of course I'm happy, but I'm also non plussed.

Tomorrow evening I'll be reading at the Word Portland series at LFK Bar in downtown Portland. The reading starts at 9, which is when I usually go to bed, and maybe you do too. But if you happen to be awake, you could come down and enjoy an audience full of irrepressible young people. They have charm.

Today I suppose I will do the regular things: housework, laundry, afternoon baseball. If, by chance, the neighbors catch sight of me lugging a basket of sheets up and down the stairs, they will never guess that I have a secret life.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Yesterday I learned that my manuscript Songs about Women and Men is a finalist for the 2017 Autumn House Prize for Poetry. In early September, the contest judge, Alberto Rios, will announce the winner.

Songs about Women and Men was a semi-finalist for the Dorset Prize earlier this year, so I am relieved, overexcited, slightly hysterical to learn that it's crossed the line into final running for another prize. As you know, I haven't submitted to many contests over the course of my career . . . mostly because of the expense but also because I miraculously managed to place all of my earlier manuscripts with non-contest-running publishers. Those days are clearly over, however, so I've had to jump into the horrifying sea.

I dislike the contest and submission-fee models, yet like other poets I cannot avoid the fact that they dominate our publishing opportunities. If I don't enter them, I have little chance of placing a book with a national press. What's made this truth less horrifying is you. When I have been underemployed, transient, depressed, overwhelmed by son emergencies, etcetera, etcetera, your donations to this blog have helped me husband a small fund for promoting my work. Without it, I would undoubtedly have continued to talk myself out of participating.

So thank you. To say that I am grateful is an understatement.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Sorry I missed you yesterday. I didn't get back from my up-north visit till close to noon, and then had to rush out for a haircut, and then had to rush back to deal with the return of the window-fixer guy. And, by then, it was time to make dinner. Strange how a day full of nothing can seem so crowded.

It's been hot in Maine. In Wellington, we sat around in chairs outside a fading bonfire and wondered if Steve was going to have to shoot the porcupine that was ravaging the raspberries. (He didn't.) In Harmony, we drank coffee in the front yard and Sue told me that the girlfriend of the guy who bought our house is expecting a baby. So that made me happy. Another generation of babies will live on my dear land.

Back here in Portland, a sea breeze is floating in sweetly through the window that the window-fixer guy can't quite seem to fix. Tom is eating huevos rancheros and reading the New Yorker, and Ruckus is tunneling under a throw rug. I am drinking coffee and thinking about poems and friendship. In some ways leaving Harmony has cemented my devotion to the people I left behind. We are so glad to see each other. They tell me how much they love me, and I tell them how much I love them. When we lived around each other all the time, we didn't have to do such things. But now the intersections have become precious.

So today I will edit a Juniper Prize poetry collection, and phone my mother, and copy out some Shakespeare, and do some laundry, and go grocery shopping, and take a long walk, and afterward I will pack a picnic dinner that Tom and I will eat while watching a performance of Chekhov's The Three Sisters in the park. I'm thinking of making spring rolls with shrimp and greens and vermicelli and basil. I'm thinking of drinking a thermos of tea and watching the night roll in over the treetops. I'm thinking I should never complain about anything again.